MRE Shelf Life

Being a most popular choice for military forces around the globe, MRE or Meals Ready to Eat become one of the favorite survival food supply for disaster preparedness and emergency response agencies. Currently all army units of developed countries are supplied with this type rations, proving that this is a good choice for extreme conditions. Designed as all in one field ration solution for situations when regular food supplies are limited, from 1981 when Meals Ready To eat rations first time are issued to troops as replacements of earlier issued “Meal, Combat, Individual ration” packs, this rations menu contents constantly changes every year. If in first ration pack only 13 menus are included, today there 24 different choices so almost everyone can find out suitable, also vegetarians as from 1996 vegetarian only meals are included too.

Have high calories and sodium count, these meals are generally designed for combat and other stress situations when more the usually calories are needed to supply body with additional energy and sodium which are lost via excessive sweating during action thus making MRE good addition to your bug out bag or emergency food storage shelf. If you have access to military surplus store check for possible menu choices, more likely you have some preferred meals so if there are possibility to make combination of what you really like, this would be really great as in emergency situation or anytime when you want to use your MRE, eating something that you do not want not anyhow make your life easier.




Before stock up with meals ready to eat for emergency purposes, anyone would like to know about MRE’s shelf life and how long you can be sure that this rations are safe to eat? In general, length of food storage, no matter what type is it, depends on storage temperature, the hotter temperature, the less time your food preserve nutrients and original taste, so lower temperature will dramatically increase your food life span. Just check for package integrity, designed to withstand battlefield abuse, even rugged MRE’s packaging can be damaged if stored improperly or teared with sharp objects. As long your packaging is sealed and stored in cool place, you are safe.

The U.S. Army Soldier System Center state that “The MRE’s shelf life is three years at 80 degrees F and six months at 100 degrees F.”. Actually as noted by multiple sources, if stored properly, MRE shelf life can be extended up to ten years or even more. To achieve optimal shelf life, storage temperature should not exceed 60 F° (16 C°) and meals should not be stored at temperatures below 30oF (-1 C°) as frozen packaging can result in broken seals and leading to to extremely fast shelf life expiration. Also you should know that storage temperature and storage time have cumulative effect – if your storehouse has wide temperature changes, this can leave serious impact on shelf life too.

Another remark about shelf life, even if MRE has reached end of the shelf life, nutrient level and calories of almost do not decrease, as shelf life is actually calculated by taste and flavor level of meal. It’s not be 100 percent safe to consume meals with ten or more years old expiration date, but in worst case scenario if I have decision to eat some rats or expired meals ready to eat, I definitely choose MRE’s. Also to make life easier and take out guessing part, in recent years, time and temperature indicators or so called TTI’s are included into each meal box. Temperature indicator consists from two circles, inner and outer, if inner circle is lighter then outer circle, your meal is safe to eat.

If you are still unsure about purchased MRE expiration date, you can try decode production date with this simple formula. For example, MRE’s box has stamped serial number like 9114A C9R2. First number in our serial encode as year, in our case this is 2009, if we do not have REALLY old package from 1999. Numbers 114 represent day of the year – April 24. Other numbers and characters has production batch number. So finally we can decode serial number as in April 24, 2009 made box.

Be safe and be prepared!



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